Jeff DeGraff

  • "The Dean of Innovation"
  • Founder, Innovatrium- an innovation consulting firm
  • Clinical Professor of Management and Organization, University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross Business School
  • Author

Jeff DeGraff’s life reads like an innovation playbook. The pages are speckled with failures followed by great successes all because of the mantra adopted at an early age from icon Walt Disney: “Keep moving forward.” Jeff knows how to innovate because he has been through the wringer and rolled with the punches, each time adding a new, better, and cleverer play than the last to his dossier. Jeff’s creative and direct take on making innovation really happen have made him a world renowned thought leader and have prompted his clients and colleagues to dub him as "The Dean of Innovation".

Jeff has advised many of the world’s leading corporations, using the Competing Values Framework that he co-created, on how to grow, change and ultimately move forward to see positive results. Jeff’s clientele list reads as a ‘who’s who’ of the business world, boasting Eaton, American Airlines, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, General Electric, Prudential and Pfizer, all as happy customers. Clients call Jeff when they want to achieve a cultural change that leads to sustainable innovation and growth. Time and time again, clients have been enthralled and inspired by Jeff’s speaking abilities and unorthodox view of innovation. He commands the room as he combines theory and practice to instill the mindset needed to make innovation truly happen. Jeff’s ideas have gained such a following that he created the Innovatrium, an innovation institute in the heart of the University of Michigan’s campus.


 
  

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Leading Innovation: How to Jumpstart Your Organization's Growth Engine

“The amount of innovation a company produces is inversely related to the number of PowerPoint slides or elaborate process diagrams it makes about innovation.”- The DeGraff Hypothesis Productivity is no longer enough. Leaders are finding that the drive for growth is pushing strategic innovation initi ...

“The amount of innovation a company produces is inversely related to the number of PowerPoint slides or elaborate process diagrams it makes about innovation.”- The DeGraff Hypothesis

Productivity is no longer enough. Leaders are finding that the drive for growth is pushing strategic innovation initiatives down into operating units where the management and staff have few of the tools and little preparation to really make it happen. Leading organizations are pursuing innovative strategies and processes only to find that they lack the culture, competencies, and leadership practices required to execute and sustain innovation. The theme of this session is simple: Sustainable innovation is produced by developing leaders who can systematically add innovation to existing business practices.

This highly engaging and interactive session is organized around the Innovation Genome, a simple framework that allows leaders at all levels and locations to understand how their leadership directly affects the creation of specific types of culture and competencies in their organizations, and how these abilities make innovation happen across the enterprise with everyone, everyday, everywhere. This session will presents a simple approach for leaders to recognize, develop, and launch creative ideas into winning solutions that create value.


Innovation You: Four Steps to Becoming New and Improved

One day it hits you: the game has changed. The market stinks, you are tired of the same old fear and greed, and what once gave you a spark isn’t enough anymore. What always worked for you before, professionally or personally, no longer gets results. Now there’s only one way forward: innovate. Make i ...

One day it hits you: the game has changed. The market stinks, you are tired of the same old fear and greed, and what once gave you a spark isn’t enough anymore. What always worked for you before, professionally or personally, no longer gets results. Now there’s only one way forward: innovate. Make it new. Make you new. But how?

In this presentation, Innovation You, also the title of Jeff DeGraff’s book and PBS program, will explore how the strategies and tactics used to grow top businesses like Apple, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, and GE can be translated and applied to your own life. It will give some pointers on how to aim for high quality targets, enlist deep and diverse domain expertise, take multiple shots on goal and learn from experience and experiments. This presentation will explain how to make yourself new and improved and how to help others do the same. So bring your challenges, an open mind and your desire to grow.

Connecting the Dots of Innovation: Making Collaborative Innovation Work Where You Work

An innovation only exists for a very brief moment before it goes sour like milk. Breakthroughs don’t conform to authoritative leadership practices because they advance at unpredictable speeds and magnitudes. Since it is disruptive, radical innovation is often relegated to an orphaned tech center, ma ...

An innovation only exists for a very brief moment before it goes sour like milk. Breakthroughs don’t conform to authoritative leadership practices because they advance at unpredictable speeds and magnitudes. Since it is disruptive, radical innovation is often relegated to an orphaned tech center, marginalized development function or outsourced completely where it becomes someone else’s problem. But in a down market, where growth is hard to come by, innovation isn’t your best friend; it’s your only friend. Now the same leaders who managed to keep innovation segregated from standard operations find themselves chasing a fast moving global market where disruptive innovation is likely to be an integrated solution created by a federation that spans companies, geographies and disciplines. As a result, conventional organizational strategies, structures and processes are being replaced by boundless affiliations where connecting the dots of diverse cultures and competencies has become the essential function of leadership. But what happens when your best people aren’t your people at all? What happens when everyone, everywhere, everyday innovates? Throw away your checklist. One size never really fit all anyway. It’s time to connect the dots – to innovate how we innovate. This presentation will show you how to sync your strategies, practices and competencies to achieve your collaborative innovation goals.

Doing the Creative Work the Company Can’t

While the motion picture industry was developing ever more sophisticated innovation methods, a small group of relatively inexperienced exiles from the big studios met a local café and created a plan to produce a series of ingenious movies. They called their start-up Pixar. Take a close look at your ...

While the motion picture industry was developing ever more sophisticated innovation methods, a small group of relatively inexperienced exiles from the big studios met a local café and created a plan to produce a series of ingenious movies. They called their start-up Pixar.

Take a close look at your favorite company or organization. You will find lots of diversity, intelligence and generative energy – in the coffee shop right across the street. While focusing on complex development processes, micromanaging new product portfolios or tormenting designers a dizzying array of metrics, your most creative people walk out of your door every day unnoticed, uninspired and untapped.

In the new world of work, where breakthrough products, services and solutions can happen anywhere, anytime with anyone, the processes that you create to accelerate innovation in your company inevitably drives it out. So how is a company supposed to make innovation happen?

By encouraging and developing people to do the creative work the company can’t.

This presentation focuses on the personal creative development of the individual: how they feel, how they think and how they act. Jeff DeGraff, the Dean of Innovation, uses stories and practical advice gained from working with hundreds of the world’s top organizations to energize and inspire the audience to start their own personal and professional renaissance. When people are revitalized, they tend to put their creativity to work where they work.


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Biography

Jeff DeGraff’s life reads like an innovation playbook. The pages are speckled with failures followed by great successes all because of the mantra adopted at an early age from icon Walt Disney: “Keep moving forward.” Jeff knows how to innovate because he has been through the wringer and rolled with the punches, each time adding a new, better, and cleverer play than the last to his dossier. Jeff’s creative and direct take on making innovation really happen have made him a world renowned thought leader and have prompted his clients and colleagues to dub him as The Dean of Innovation.

Jeff has advised many of the world’s leading corporations, using the Competing Values Framework that he co-created, on how to grow, change and ultimately move forward to see positive results. Jeff’s clientele list reads as a ‘who’s who’ of the business world, boasting Eaton, American Airlines, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, General Electric, Prudential and Pfizer, all as happy customers. Clients call Jeff when they want to achieve a cultural change that leads to sustainable innovation and growth. Time and time again, clients have been enthralled and inspired by Jeff’s speaking abilities and unorthodox view of innovation. He commands the room as he combines theory and practice to instill the mindset needed to make innovation truly happen. Jeff’s ideas have gained such a following that he created the Innovatrium, an innovation institute in the heart of the University of Michigan’s campus.

The Innovatrium is what every great innovator in the past has had: a laboratory for experimenting with new ideas and creating tangible prototypes to prove the concepts. Throw in the fact that you can write or draw on every surface while looking out the large bay windows at one of the most prestigious schools in the world and the inspiration simply becomes organic.

Not to be pigeon-holed; Jeff is also well known as an author whose witty and insightful prose have landed him regular columns with The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and Management Innovation Exchange. His talent for breaking down the steps needed to innovate effectively also prompted him to write a slew of successful books on innovation including Creativity at Work, Leading Innovation, Innovation You: Four Steps to Becoming New and Improved, and The Enlivened Self: The Art of Growing. His newest book, Making Stone Soup, explains the key to make collaborative innovation happen. Other publications that showcase Jeff’s innovation principles are Business Week, Fortune, USA Today, Training+Development and the Wall Street Journal. He also has video learning modules with Big Think. Jeff’s new radio program with Michigan Radio, called The Next Idea, invites discussions about innovation in the State of Michigan and beyond.

For the past 25 years Jeff has also spent his time as a Clinical Professor of Management and Organization for the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross Business school. His energetic personality and practical business experience have made his classes some of the highest rated and hardest to get into at Ross, and he enjoys discussing the changing face of innovation with the next generation.Taking into account Jeff’s extensive experience and mixing it with the creative streak and competitive edge he’s known for, it is not hard to see why he is called ‘the guru to the innovation gurus’ of Fortune 500 Companies.

Professor DeGraff is the creator of the Certified Professional Innovator Program at the University of Michigan. This certificate program develops innovation leaders through an integrated curriculum and practicum of assessments, on-line modules, project jumpstarts and coaching. Professor DeGraff founded a leading innovation institute, Innovatrium, with labs in Ann Arbor and Atlanta.

Professor DeGraff holds a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.